Initiatives, Incentives and Awards Show California’s Commitment to Green Building
By Cindy Trillo
California continues to take the lead in environmental building, having recently taken the final step to be the first state to require solar panels on new homes. At the moment, only 9% of detached homes in California have solar panels but this rule should quickly help this percentage to grow. Such requirements, coupled with incentives and rewards for green building, help address climate change, and in so doing create sustainable and thriving communities. In Elk Grove, the Community and Senior Center, to be completed later this year, will be awarded the highest honor by the globally recognized green building rating system LEED and further planned projects continue to add to the successful development of the City.
Financing Green Projects
California has invested billions into clean energy projects and energy efficiency retrofits, and, in August last year, pledged to use green financing to combat climate change. Now, in neighboring Oregon, voters in a recent election have chosen a candidate with bold ideas on climate change and an a clean energy initiative has been passed which will see millions invested in clean energy and new healthy homes. As well as relying on government investment and subsidies, homeowners wanting to remain in older properties might also free up equity to improve their local Oregon homes in order to make them greener. Creating an energy-efficient home by adding insulation, upgrading heating systems and reducing water usage can significantly lower running costs and add value to the property.
Balancing the Benefits of Building with Environment
The new development boom in Elk Grove has been described as ‘exciting’ by Elk Grove’s director of strategic planning and innovation. Several projects are underway across the city ranging from retail developments to community centers, and the building boom indicates a prosperous city. However, with so much development, it’s important to ensure that green standards are still being met. Issues such as the environmental impact of more cars on the road and building on greenfield land need to be addressed by the City and carefully balanced with the benefits that new buildings bring. Now nearing completion, the new City of Elk Grove General Plan Update examines environmental impact and addresses climate change, vital issues in a rapidly expanding city.
Recognizing Green Achievements
One of the most effective ways to encourage green building is to reward developers and homeowners who put green building techniques and developments into practice. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for a variety of building projects, a framework is provided that projects can apply in order to build efficient, sustainable and cost-effective, green buildings. In Elk Grove, as well as the Community and Senior Center currently under construction, the small, energy-efficient resource house built on the Cosumnes Oaks High School campus was also given platinum status by LEED. Other buildings in Elk Grove that have been awarded LEED certification include the Old Town Library and more recently Elk Grove High School. Over two years, the school’s green practices were examined by measuring electricity and water consumption, and other procedures aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the building were taken into account.
Green building is becoming the standard for construction in the United States, and California is at the forefront of positive developments to encourage more. It has already has taken great steps to ensure buildings in the state are getting greener. Green developments in Elk Grove are being recognized and, within the framework of building codes, financial incentives and global certification, it should become easier in the future to expand these types of development throughout the City.